By Rameesha Syed on November 01, 2022
4 minute read
A 3-Part Conversation Between an IC Consultant and an In-House Internal Comms Professional About How to Work the C-Suite

Welcome the final part of our three-part blog series on how internal comms can work with the C-Suite.  

Read on as Mike Klein, our Senior Strategic Advisor and founder of #WeLeadComms, continue the conversation with Thomas Grøndorf, Head of Internal, Strategy and Financial Communication at international engineering consultancy #COWI.  

Together, they explore the C-Suite in different perspectives and what it takes to be a good leader. 

Let’s dive in. 

 

Mike: 

We tend to discuss the “C-suite” as a block - but in reality, it’s filled with people from different perspectives and backgrounds.  

Thomas: 

Yes, and working in large organizations, there is a lot of politics within the C-Suite. This you also need to be able to navigate to be successful. 

Mike: 

So, beyond the business acumen, there’s a level of political acumen you need as well. 

Thomas: 

Yes, the CFO, CCO and COO all want to be the next CEO while of course still being loyal to the current CEO. So, how do you build trust in each of them and give the best advice? It’s difficult sometimes - but if you have a strong moral compass, you know how to handle this. Ethics and values are crucial in general, but internal comms super important. 

Mike: 

So, in reality, does it matter so much whom you report to in the grand scheme of things? 

Thomas: 

Yes and no. What matters is that the boss you report to has influence and can give you easy access to the people you need to engage with to be a value-adding comms pro. That you have access to the needed information.  

But a good leader is also someone who masters the 3 D’s: delegate (exciting and big tasks to you), develop (constantly focus on developing your skills), decides (can make fast decision-making in line with the CEOs agenda/business priorities to move things forward) 

Mike: 

Ideally, your boss also has good ambitions for your work and what it can do for their own agenda. 

Thomas: 

My current boss is super at all this. I’m his wingman and that works excellent - mostly because we share the same professional ambitions and capabilities, trust each other and have a lot of fun together.  

Mike: 

Wingman. Good term. 

Thomas:  

I’m Goose, he’s Maverick 

Mike:   

Must see the new Top Gun. Loved the old one. 

You’ve given some excellent and really timeless advice in this conversation, But I know that you didn’t pick all of this up instantly. Is there anything you want to share about your first conversations and encounters with C-suite leaders and how you learned all this? 

Thomas: 

I was very fortunate that I got my first job in a bank where the Head of Comms, Marketing etc. took me under his wing. He wasn’t particular educational in his feedback - but if you listened to the intent in his rather harsh feedback, you could learn a lot. He taught me about strategic communication, how you move people’s perceptions from A to B.  

Then, our Head of Media said: “that’s fine but if you can’t win the daily battle in media, you won’t make it” - so I learned that from him. And finally, there was an old journalist that taught me how to write an exciting story. That combination has formed me and since then I have built on these competencies. 

But that said, I’m also a curious person, so I ask many questions - and I don’t fear titles. That has also mostly gotten me into interesting opportunities. Never say no to a task - also when you don’t know how to solve it. That’s probably my best advice to youngsters - never say no, say you don’t know how to solve the task, but you will find out. That’s how you learn a lot.  

Mike:  

So, there’s value in being courageous - but also value in being prepared, with data, knowledge, and a reputation as someone who’s conscientious and personally caring. And it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all. 

Thomas: 

That sums it up pretty good - but failing is a gift, it just doesn’t feel like that to begin with. But you learn so much by making mistakes - just don’t make the same mistake twice.  

Mike: 

This has been an outstanding conversation - I really appreciate your time and commitment to share some really powerful stuff. Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think is worth mentioning here? 

Thomas: 

Yes, how do you get almost an unlimited budget for IC? 

Mike: 

Wow. That’s one hell of a question. 

Thomas: 

Let me try to answer that shortly. But we are back to your business understanding. 

In my current job at COWI, an engineering consultancy, we can see that there is a direct link between the customer NPS and our EBIT-margin, we also know that the customer NPS is driven by the quality of our project execution and the interaction with us.  

That means that the customer communication has a direct impact on our earnings. So, how does this insight give me an unlimited budget - execs now clearly understand why we have to train colleagues in communication - we are a consultancy house so sending people off to training is costly because people are not billable. But now we do it, we invest in building our communication capabilities as this is a business differentiator.  

Also, I just did a costly influencer survey for the entire Group, 7,000 people. Why, because I told the execs that these insights could strengthen our retention and productivity - two of our business challenges right now.  

So, your ability to combine business acumen with innovative communication solutions that fix a business challenge gives you almost an unlimited IC budget. 

Mike: 

Now everyone has gotten their money’s worth out of this conversation as well. Anything else to add? 

Thomas: 

Thanks for the chat, nice to exchange insights and ideas. Hope it can inspire others.  

Mike: 

It’s been a pleasure and it will give everyone something to think about. Really appreciate it.  

Thomas: 

My pleasure, have a great day! 

 

Here are some quick key takeaways from the article:  

  • Understand how to impress the C-suite 
  • Gain a strong business acumen 
  • Earn trust through direct communication  
  • Understand the organization’s culture and practices 
  • Ask the right questions 
  • Understand the outcome vs. output debate 
  • Build a communication culture 
  • Understand C-Suite in different perspectives 
  • Follow the three Ds of being a good leader 
  • Learn how to get an unlimited budget for internal comms 

 

What’s Next:  




 

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